Client/Partners: City of Rock Island, Illinois
Dates: 2013 – 2014
Need: Located at the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers as part of the Quad Cities bi-state region, the City of Rock Island has a long history of manufacturing and commerce tied to the rivers and the former Rock Island Railroad. Like many Midwestern communities, the City’s economy was closely tied to agriculture and suffered a significant setback with the farm crisis in the 1980s. Since then, the community has worked diligently to diversify their economy and overcome issues of poverty and disinvestment left in the wake of the economic collapse. Using a state grant funded by federal disaster declaration resulting from a significant flood in 2008, the City embarked upon its first-ever comprehensive plan and an Economic Development Strategy.
Services: City staff took the lead on the overall comprehensive plan development, working in close collaboration with Vandewalle & Associates who provided expertise with public engagement, flood and hazard mitigation planning, future land use mapping, and infill development policies. In addition, Vandewalle took the lead in preparing an Economic Development Strategy that was captured in a standalone document and also used to inform the comprehensive plan’s economic development element. Both processes involved extensive public input in several different forums, with a focus on reaching historically under-represented residents. The City’s population is nearly 30 percent non-Anglo with over 42 different native languages spoken by students in the school district.
Recommendations: Rock Island’s Plan was a pilot for best practices under the American Planning Association’s Sustaining Places. The process and plan development both served as models upon which APA’s Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Communities were based. The Plan was structured around an overall community vision and 9 Guiding Principles for sustainably achieving the vision and plan goals.
The Economic Development Strategy was developed with guidance provided by a diverse group of representatives from large and small businesses, non-profits, higher education institutions, and the regional transit agency. The strategy inventoried the community’s key economic assets, and provided recommendations for four economic activity centers and three over-arching strategic directions which included becoming a regional hub for international business and culture, embracing the rivers, and celebrating the best of city living.
Due to the extensive amount of public input, both plans received wide- spread community support and were unanimously adopted by the Plan Commission and City Council.
Implementation: Since adoption, the City has actively used both plans as a guide for updating its land development codes and moving forward with various redevelopment and economic development opportunities.
Comprehensive Plan Summary Posters